Coming is a group of real freaks living in Los Angeles, the trio of Dustin Hollenbeck, AJ English, and Billy Hedgecock. These dark and wild post-punk no-wavers have been out on the road with some of their own heroes, in the likes of opening for AFI. This is in spite of not really having a record out and not having played at any of the “cred venues” around L.A. Despite that, they’ve been laying waste to unsuspecting Davey Havok fans for the last couple months, with their blend of punk and industrial and hardcore. We sat down with them before their opening slot at New York City’s Webster Hall show with Touché Amoré and AFI. They talked about how they came to be on that tour, how they got together, and how they made their new video—check out the premiere below.
All three in unison: The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips. The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips. The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips. The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips. The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips. The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips. The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips. The tip of the tongue and the teeth and the lips….
Noisey: Alright stop. Tell me about your new video.
AJ: The video was very stressful but it turned out amazing. It was just on shot. And we’d never really made a video before and we just kind of figured it out on our own. Well, we’ve done everything on our own. We’ve released our records on our own. We have recorded on our own. It’s been very DIY from the beginning. So we just thought we’d make a video. I was just like, “I’ll just direct that shit. That’ll be easy.” It wasn’t.
What was so hard about it?
AJ: Just all these little things that you don’t think about before. Like, “Oh I’ll just get a camera and it’ll be fine!” And then there’s like 13 boxes of stuff and you’re saying, “What is all this shit?” I don’t know anything so I had to get a director of photography to help me, and had to pull in all these friends. I rented an insanely nice cinema-quality camera to get the frame rate because the video is in slow motion. And we had to speed up the song twice as fast.
Dustin: I had to sing this song twice as fast while getting pelted with trash.
It’s a pretty burning song already.
Dustin: I just really adjusted to it being at that speed. When we went to play it afterwards it felt slow.
AJ: We played it so many times fast that it just started feeling that’s the way it was.
Dustin: Because we sped up the tracks without affecting the pitch of my voice. So it wasn’t ridiculous to listen to. It sounded really awesome. It was a nice song all of a sudden.
AJ: He was also chained. We had him chained by his arms. So as soon as the song started, he got hit in the face with a Coke, the trash started, and then we just yanked his arms down. He was just possessed. We filmed the video in a one-week break in the two halves of the AFI tour.
How does a band that does everything themselves—videos, recording, releases, imagery, promotions, everything—get on a tour with AFI?
AJ: Before that, I just want to say that we have released our last EP with Sweating Tapes, which is a great independent label from Portland now based in L.A. He came on after we had already getting ready to release it. We had already made it and we already had it down. So I asked him for help because I really respect him. So he’s been really helpful on getting us on web presence, and helping market it and everything. He’s like a really dope dude. So we’re not completely doing it ourselves.
Billy: The became involved as things were already set in motion. Once we were already confirmed for this show, he kind of swept and things went from there.
AJ: But, about the AFI thing. It’s just a charmed story. Davey Havok came to our first show on a fluke. It was probably terrible.
Billy: He was the only one dancing though, I remember that.
Dustin: I watched a video of the show afterwards and it was just absolute garbage.
AJ: We were very stoked and we played our fucking hearts out and he was really into it. And he was like, this is amazing, you guys remind me of all this art, no-wave shit from New York. Teenage Jesus, stuff like that. And he came to like every other show. “Invite me to the next one! Invite me to the next one!” Ok, yeah, sure. Months go by and I get an email. Not from him, from a booking agent, saying, “Would you guys like to support AFI on their next tour?” Totally casual, like I should I be expecting it or something. I read it 13 times. I just kept reading it. It was so surreal because all three of us have been insane AFI fans our entire lives. Personally, they’ve been one of the most influential bands. The reason why I’m straight edge is because of Davey. At that point, we had one tape out. We really had to get our shit together. We just decided, “Alright, now it’s time to become a good band.”
So this was motivating?
AJ: It was extremely motivating. And I think we have Davey to thank for that in believing in us enough to bring us on and then inspiring us to actually really take it to the next level with our music and performance.
Billy: Everything that’s involved with playing shows on this level has really forced us to step up.
Dustin: It really made us feel like we were worth a shit.
You guys didn’t before?
AJ: Los Angeles is kind of disheartening because there’s so many bands and so many people and so much mainstream ambition. When you’re in a band that’s really atonal and off-the-grid, it’s hard to get people interested. We don’t really fit in with the hardcore scene completely and we don’t fit in with the metal scene.
Dustin: We’ve never played Part-Time Punks.
AJ: We’ve never played any of the cred places.
You played The Smell.
AJ: We played The Smell, that was awesome, with our friends, Retox. But we’ve just carved out our own weird circle of L.A. and when we got asked to do this tour, it was like, we’ve been working hard as fuck, and someone recognizes it.
Dustin, you’re doing a bunch of stretches.
Dustin: My whole routine before we play is kind of ridiculous.
Do you lose it?
Dustin: Yeah. I go into this… it almost becomes like a daze. I need to be limber and I need to warm up my voice.
How do you warm up your voice?
Dustin: It’s these operatic scales and some weird jazz shit.
Where did you learn these warm ups?
Dustin: I took a couple singing lessons. I had never sang before this band at all. I just played guitar for like ten years.
Why do you need singing lessons for a band where you’re essentially shouting?
Dustin: There are parts that are actual notes.
AJ: A lot of his singing is not just shouting. It’s like, yelling in key. We’re inspired a lot by the kind of old, like, Nick Caves who really howl but howl in a tone that’s controlled, that’s not just like a hardcore scream. It’s actually a beautiful intentional thought-out note.
How else did you draw from? I know you’re all huge Joy Division fans.
AJ: We do a Joy Division cover from time to time.
AJ: “New Dawn Fades.” The only other person that’s attempted it is Moby. Moby’s really killed it so we stepped it up a notch. But in the drums, personally, I take inspiration from Swans and Eisturzende Neubatten. Very industrial, tribal, trance-inducing shit.
You also do some pretty crazy fills.
AJ: Yeah. I think my other drum god, and I’m sure you agree with me on this, is Ben Koeller.
I was just waiting for you to say that.
AJ: We have a song called “Thoughts” and I just say, “Play like Ben. Play like Ben and you won’t fuck up. Just keep that energy going.”
Dustin: I guess I was thinking about Refused. The clinginess of when The Blood Brothers first came out in Seattle. Sass, and shit like that. I followed a lot of that dancier, kind of sexy punk when I was teenager. That first Liars record was probably my favorite dance-punk record of all time.
Billy: As far as bass tone goes, it’s going to sound weird because of the band, but Motörhead. Lemmy. Lemmy’s tone has always been really big for me. Not his bass playing, especially with this band. But anything driving and really gritty and grimy. The only reason I always do overdrive is because I think it’s important for the bass to have a bit of bite to it, especially matched with Dustin’s clangy abrasive guitars. It kind of just fell into place. Dustin picked me up at a bar. What was that, Thirsty Crow?
Dustin: Yeah, I talked to him at a bar and he literally just looked like he was supposed to be in the band and there wasn’t anybody else that I had in mind to play bass. AJ and I had been fucking around, really almost aimlessly. He sounded interested so I told him he needed to show up the next day for practice.
What do you think of this statement: If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not making music.
AJ: That fucking defines us then. That’s definitely the Coming motto. This tour especially, being on these huge stages with monitors and front-of-house sound guys and stuff, it’s made all our mistakes so much more apparent.
Dustin: We’re playing with bands that are very fucking tight, too, like insane tight. And that’s like just not really… like yeah we’re a punk and a hardcore band by that’s not really our vibe. We’re just really going after it rather than going for precision. We aim for precision generally but that’s not the most important result, at all.
Are you going to return to L.A. a much better band?
Billy: And a more humble band I think. Humbled from playing these shows. We’re going to go back to L.A. and play in front of these crowds that aren’t as massive as this and I think it’s good to hold that mentality of playing in front of ten people like you’re playing to 1000 people.
AJ: I don’t feel like we’re going to go back humbled. I feel like we’re going to go back fucking like we own the shit. I felt humble back when we were in L.A. playing shows for people who didn’t care and the same ten friends coming out all the time. That was humbling.
Dustin: Yeah this is more validating. The response has been good.
AJ: Before we left on this tour we had no idea. We had no frame of reference for how we would be accepted.
Dustin: Trying to figure out how many units of merch before we left was really fucking funny.
AJ: we just had no idea. Are people going to fucking hate us? Or are they going to fucking love us? It’s been neither. The right people get it, and that’s awesome. And it’s been really cool to meet people and tell us we’re inspiring and shit.
Billy: Maybe that’s the humbling part I’m thinking about.
What are your themes about?
Dustin: Generally the lyrics are about inward struggle and shit that I’ve gone through and a lot of people have gone through and maybe these two have a little bit. I’ve been hospitalized a couple of times for being bipolar and have been on medication and on and off alcohol and drugs. I quit all of that to get a hold of myself. And I started this band right when that happened. So this was my outlet and basically voicing fucked-up shit that I’ve done to myself and went through. There are other themes but I would say that’s the central issue. And I would say just being brutally honest.
Is that daze you’re talking about on stage better than getting drunk?
Dustin: Yeah. It’s really real.
AJ: It’s all progress. It’s all forward motion.
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